KEEP A-MOVIN’

Whether it’s singing, performing, or flexing her muscles, Dorothy Gilmore-Seavers has no time for standing still

  • In 2007, Dorothy Gilmore-Seavers came to a crossroads in her life. She was 47 years old, the mother of two children, and successful in her profession. She had recently begun a relationship with Jace Seavers that would soon lead to marriage. On the surface, she had everything, but in a moment of self-realization, she knew she wanted more.
         “I just came home crying one day,” she says. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. My relationship with Jace was great, but he did all these things. He was an engineer and electrician. He was an artist. He wrote songs and played music. I needed to do something. Jace said, ‘Just move; if you do one thing then that may lead to something else.’ ”
         Nine years later, Dorothy hasn’t stopped moving. When she welcomes you into her home, she’s friendly and effusive, and the air around her seems to crackle with energy. When she talks about what she’s done with her life, you find that energy is quite real. In less than a decade, she’s become an accomplished singer, the cohost of a comedy variety TV show, appeared in low budget films, stirred up crowds as a Nashville Rollergirls “jeerleader,” led the annual Tomato Art Festival parade as the “Grand High Tomato,” and just recently brought home a trophy from her first body building competition. At an age when many people are thinking about slowing the pace, Dorothy is just getting started.
         Born and raised in Mississippi, Dorothy had no trouble channeling her enthusiasm and extroverted personality into the usual extracurricular school activities. “I was always involved in something,” she says. “I lettered in basketball, ran track, got voted Miss East Side High, and was salutatorian of my high school graduating class. I went to college at Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss., and I was on the Delta Belle dance team, so I was always performing even though I never thought about singing or playing music.” After graduating with a business administration degree, she pursued a career in retail management.
         “In Mississippi, everybody knows your business,” she says. “So I wanted to get out of there. After college, I moved straight to Pittsburgh where I started working in retail management for the Lerners clothing chain. In the early ’90s, I transferred to Nashville to manage the Lerners store in the old Church Street Center Mall. I eventually realized you can’t grow old gracefully in retail because it’s so demanding and you’re on your feet all day. I was a good typist, so I started working at receptionist jobs.”
    With her friendly personality and strong people skills, Dorothy found she was a natural as the first contact person at high-profile professional firms such as Tuck Hinton Architects, Hastings Architecture Associates, and Brasfield & Gorrie General Contractors.
         “It never seems like work to me — talking to people and helping them to connect with the right person,” she says. “When people come into a professional business, they need to feel good about spending their money with that company, and I love being that first contact.”
         But while her professional life was going well, her personal life had fallen by the wayside. As a single mother nearing middle age, she decided to try an online dating service. After dealing with the expected “dream dates” who turned out to be duds, a rather eccentric profile photo caught her eye.
         “He was holding a globe on his back,” Dorothy says. “It just intrigued me and spoke to me. Everything about him was different. I lived on the West Side in Belle Meade and worked in an office. He lived on the East Side and was a musician and artist. I had never even been to East Nashville. Our first date was at McCabe’s Pub, and when this tall, German-looking guy came through the door, he was the stuff. He was dressed all in black. Black coat, black boots, and his hair was spiky black sticking up in the air. I thought, is he coming for me? Because generally when a handsome man came through the door, they were for the person behind me or on the side of me. He had roses in his hand, and it was just a moment.”
         That striking man was Jace Seavers, whose background turned out to be a world away from Dorothy’s. A Wisconsin native who grew up in the port city of Manitowoc, his life had been anything but conventional.
         “I lived in a Christian commune with about 500 people for almost 10 years,” he says. “It was very bizarre. After I left, I was writing lyrics for a Christian label when Warner Chappell publishing contacted me and offered me job.”
         Moving to Nashville, Jace Seavers continued writing contemporary Christian music for several years before drifting away from the music business full time. He continued playing and recording his own music in different genres, including prog rock and eventually his own quirky, idiosyncratic take on small combo jazz. In addition to his music, he dabbled in art and design and worked as a telecommunications engineer for I. C. Thomasson Associates, Inc. After their first meeting, the couple’s relationship quickly flowered as their personalities and strengths complemented each other.
         “When I met Dorothy, my goal in life was to be a grouchy old man,” Seavers says. “I was actually looking forward to that, but Dorothy wrecked that. Now every day I find myself happier; that may sound corny, but it’s true. She’s fun to be around all the time.”
         From Dorothy’s perspective, Jace brought both stability and a world of possibilities. “When we first met, my youngest son was 12. Jace stepped in and became a great father. Beyond that, Jace had a huge bearing on the direction of my life. I had all this energy, but no idea what to do with it. Our motto became, ‘Why not you?’ ”
         The first exploration was based on Jace’s suggestion to try one thing and see where it led. Dorothy signed up for vocal lessons with renowned, Nashville-based vocal coach Ron Browning and soon began to notice other opportunities, even before she felt secure enough to sing in public, as Jace recalls.
         “Shortly after Dorothy started the vocal lessons, I had a CD release party that had a boxing theme,” he says. “We had a fake boxing ring onstage, and she came out carrying a card that read ‘SONG 1’ and ‘SONG 2’ like she was announcing each round of the boxing match. Of course, she got all the applause.”
         “I loved dressing up,” Dorothy says, “so when he suggested I hold up the signs, I got really excited over the idea of wearing different outfits. Soon I was dancing at his shows, and Jace suggested I learn a song to sing. I learned one, and then another, and then another.”
         With Dorothy taking a larger role on stage, and the couple’s marriage in 2008, it didn’t take long before a full-fledged duo act evolved. Billing themselves as “Meet the Seavers,” Jace and Dorothy built a reputation as one of Nashville’s most unusual and theatrical musical acts — like Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee working their way through the Tom Waits songbook — with more than a touch of classic vaudeville thrown into the mix.
         “We approach each set with the idea of what can we do to make it different from the last set we played,” Dorothy says. “Which is why we use different props and have costume changes; in a way, we’re really presenting a musical play.”
         The theatricality of their performances soon led to other avenues for Dorothy — a stint as a member of the Rhinestone Ruckus jeerleader squad for the Nashville Roller Girls, a small role portraying “Damnazon” in the low-budget, locally produced, independent feature film The Deadliest Gender, and a multiyear run as the “Grand High Tomato” in East Nashville’s annual Tomato Art Fest.
         “I saw this ad on the East Nashville Listserv,” Dorothy recalls. “ ‘Needed, someone to dance in tomato outfit.’ I showed up and got the part. Now I get to lead the parade each year. It is the best. I can see myself out there as a dancing tomato when I’m 75 years old.”
         The next avenue that Dorothy and Jace conquered turned out to be television. After a guest appearance on the locally produced musical variety program The Chico and BMan Show, the couple began contemplating their own show for the Nashville Education, Community and Arts Television (NECAT) network that provides community-generated programming for local cable providers.
         “At first, Jace wasn’t sure about it,” Dorothy says. “I decided I was going to do it, and then he got on board. My vocal coach kept telling me I should interview people, and I was gung ho about trying something new. I thought it would be fun, but it also might open up other avenues. We had been playing out in clubs for a while, so this was a way to get into 
    people’s homes.”
         Debuting in the fall of 2013, Meet the Seavers is a 30-minute musical, interview, comedy, variety show. The show, which just completed its second season, airs several times a week on Comcast’s Community Access channel (Channel 19), and the Music City Arts Channel (Comcast Channel 9, AT&T U-verse Channel 99). All the episodes are archived on YouTube. Drawing inspiration from The Carol Burnett Show, the classic show that aired from 1967 to 1978 on CBS, the program combines off-kilter sketch comedy, musical segments from the show’s star couple, and interview and performance segments with guest musicians. For sets, the Seavers rely on the vivid pop art décor of their Shelby Hills neighborhood home.
         “We basically have no budget, so we’ve had to be highly creative,” Dorothy explains. “We turned different rooms of our house into specific sets for the show. We keep an idea board in our kitchen covered with notes for potential sketches, and Jace writes all the scripts.”
    By January 2015, Dorothy had become accustomed to the constant changes in her life, but with her 54th birthday approaching, she began to notice a change that was not welcome.
         “As we go through life, we somehow believe our body will magically stay the same,” Dorothy says. “I was up to 154, the heaviest I’ve been my entire life, so I found some cheap exercise equipment on Craigslist and started working out. I made some progress and then wanted to see what would happen if I gave it everything I had.”
         Deciding that working with a personal trainer was the next step, both Dorothy and Jace began a six-month program with Dustin Moore at Platinum Built Training that included structured meal plans and workouts.
         “I went to the gym every morning and then when I got off from work too,” Dorothy says. “I found out I just love working out. The way I’m designed, I need to have something to work toward. After I lost the weight, I had to find something else to work toward.”
         By August, Dorothy had found her next goal. Increasing the intensity of her training, she prepared herself for the NPC Music City Muscle Bodybuilding, Physique, Figure, Bikini & Fitness Competition. Sanctioned by the National Physique Committee (NPC), the largest amateur bodybuilding organization in the United States, the competition was held on Nov. 7, 2015, at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center and attracted over 650 competitors from across Tennessee. Entering in two categories, “Novice C - 5’7” and Taller” and “Master Bikini - 45 and Older,” Dorothy brought home the fourth-place award in the Bikini competition.
         “Leading up to the competition day, I was a mixed batch of emotions — excited, nervous, exhausted, and I kept asking myself, ‘What the hell did I get myself into?’ But what was even better than the fact that I placed in one category was just being a part of it. People were there for many reasons other than competing. I met one woman who could barely walk for several months due to back trouble, but through therapy she was able to compete. And even before the competition, I’d meet other women at the gym and tell them my age and what I was doing; they would say, ‘No way!’ I’d tell them they can do it, too, with no drugs or anything crazy. It’s just a matter of committing to it and then sticking with it.” Although Dorothy plans to compete again, the experience of sharing her accomplishments with others may have opened yet another avenue to explore.
         “Now I’m thinking I’d like to become certified in teaching physical fitness,” she says. “I’d really like to be able to teach older women how to properly exercise and perhaps become a motivational coach.”
         Eight years after that simple decision to “just move,” Dorothy’s life is hardly recognizable. “When I first took Jace’s suggestion and tried one thing, I had no idea that it would lead down so many paths — singing, a TV show, performing in other ways, competition bodybuilding, and more. You have to have the will to do things, but you also need support from the people around you.
         “Everything I have tried or done, Jace has supported me,” she continues. “When I tell people about my life, they ask how we do all these things. We just do it. We enjoy where we live. We enjoy all the things we do. The main thing is to just decide to do something and then do it. Something may happen along the way to steer you in another direction, but the important thing is you have to move and keep moving.”